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London: 24-hour itinerary

London Insider
Check out the view from the London Eye (Photo: Dennis Johnson / Lonely Planet Images)
Check out the view from the London Eye
"Wind your way through Soho's narrow streets, stopping off at Berwick Street market and raise your eyebrows at the adult shops that proliferate at the bottom of the street."
London Insider

If you've just got 24 hours in London, our Insider has put together the perfect itinerary just for you. Don't miss a thing!

Begin with a delectable breakfast at Fernandez and Wells, a Soho eatery with fresh juice, pastries and even grilled pancetta with creamy egg mayonnaise on the menu. From here, wind your way through Soho's narrow streets, stopping off at Berwick Street market and raise your eyebrows at the adult shops that proliferate at the bottom of the street. To understand more about this alternative-yet-classic part of London, check out the events listing at the Sohemian Society. If you are really lucky, your 24 hours in London will coincide with one of their walking tours of Soho that are led by historians, authors and poets and follow themes such as art, sex, politics and crime.

No twenty-four hours in London would be complete without taking in one of the major cultural spaces. Sitting adjacent to each other at the top end of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are two of the best. Recent exhibitions at the NPG have included a Vanity Fair portrait show and a Faces of the Century retrospective. The National Gallery is home to the National Dining Rooms, an award-winning restaurant that serves modern British cuisine and is run by restaurateur wunderkind Oliver Peyton.

Contrast London's largest galleries with one of its smallest. The Photographers Gallery may be compact but its exhibitions are consistently amongst the best London has to offer. This independent gallery has free entry, and recent shows have included a presentation of Colombian photography, a Keith Arnatt retrospective and a Taryn Simon collection.

From here, catch your first glimpse of the River Thames, which slices the city into north-south halves. Charing Cross Bridge is closest to Trafalgar Square, but Waterloo Bridge is by far the most picturesque bridge in London and is well worth the detour, as you can see Westminster, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, South Bank and St Paul's Cathedral. Once you've crossed the river, meander along South Bank until you reach the London Eye. Yes it's touristy and yes it's overcrowded, but the views really are phenomenal and it is an iconic London experience. Book online in advance to save yourself queuing time and hassle. If you've got time to spare, it's worth exploring the South Bank, home to a host of London cultural institutions that include the Hayward Gallery, the British Film Institute and the National Theatre, all housed in striking late 1960s block architecture.

Head further along the river for dinner at the Oxo Tower , one of London's most famous and most fancy restaurants. The views are superb and the food exceptional, if pricey. It's a return to Soho post-dinner for cocktails and dancing until the early hours. Floridita is great for those who love Latin flavours while LAB Bar on Old Compton Street legendary cocktails are served. Soho is crammed with secret late-night venues — look out for unmarked doorways that lead down to crowded basement rooms, particularly along Frith Street and Greek Street. If the owners are willing, these places stay open until the sun rises and it's time for another breakfast...

Next: 48-hour itinerary

Have you tried any of the places on this itinerary? Got any ideas we haven't thought of? Have your say using the comments form below.

User comments
Some great tips there. There's a new book coming out called 24 Hours London... it arranges things hour by hour, so you just need to look up the hour and see what there is to do at that time. If you Google it, you should find a website, too, with some tips. Try '24 Hours London'. Cheers! Sal
If you only have 24 hours the London Eye is a waste of several of them - over crowded and time consuming. If you have a week in London, fine to do it on a clear day (there are three of those a year) but if you only have 24 hrs spend them with your feet fixed firmly on terra firma emersing yourself in the history and life that is London.

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